2 july:The 11th-century Preah Vihear temple sits serenely on a mountaintop, just across the border from Thailand, with sweeping views over the blue-green Cambodian jungle.
The ruins of the Hindu temple are the most important example of ancient Khmer architecture outside of Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat, and have weathered centuries of wars and duelling territorial claims with Thailand.
The dispute seemed at an end two weeks ago, when Thailand gave Cambodia the green light to apply for the temple to be listed as a World Heritage site by UN’s cultural body UNESCO, a move that would draw in tourists and help maintain the temple.
UNESCO’s 21-nation World Heritage Committee will consider the request during its annual meeting starting Wednesday in Quebec, Canada.
But the deal has sparked a political backlash in Thailand, and last week Cambodia closed its border near the ruins as more than 100 Thai activists tried to march there to protest the agreement.
Then a Thai court slapped an injuncton on the government on Saturday, preventing it from supporting Cambodia’s bid.
"I’ve argued with Thais many times over this issue. Our Cambodian people will not be intimidated any more if the temple is listed as a World Heritage site," said Nuth Bunsoy, deputy chief of the nearby checkpoint into Thailand.
Preah Vihear, built to honour the Hindu god Shiva stretches dramatically up to a cliff-top in the Dangrek mountain range, on the border with Thailand.
Thai soldiers in the 1950s occupied its series of complexes with elegant carvings linked by stone stairways and causeways, but they left after a World Court ruling in 1962 declared the temple belonged to Cambodia.
Although it sits on Cambodian soil, the stairway into the temple begins in Thailand, causing tensions over how to manage the site.
Former Khmer Rouge member Inn Noeun, one of the 50 workers hired by the Cambodian government to maintain the ancient ruins, digs grass out of the steep stone staircase.
"I hope that Preah Vihear temple be listed as a World Heritage site very soon," said the 45 year old woman, who moved to live near the temple a decade ago.
"The temple belongs to Cambodia. It is located in our territory," she said.
A 19-member delegation from Cambodia will push for Preah Vihear’s naming as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The country began seeking World Heritage status for Preah Vihear nearly six years ago, but the temple has long plagued relations with Thailand.
When Cambodia last year attempted to have the site listed by UNESCO, the effort failed amid rumours Thailand had blocked the deal.
Many Cambodians dream that the ancient ruins, which bear the scars of the country’s civil war, with bullet holes and signs warning visitors of landmines, will earn international recognition and attract much-needed tourists. That is also the hope of the government.
The listing brings "international recognition to the temple. It will also attract more foreign tourists with more income to the country," said Chuch Phoeurn, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture.
Tourism is one of Cambodia’s biggest money spinners, and the government wants to develop attractions away from Angkor Wat so that visitors will stay longer.courtsey : DD NEWS